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DataChem Laboratories of Salt Lake City has formed a joint venture partnership with ABC Laboratories, the largest en-vi-ron-men-tal analytical laboratory in Mexico, and an Irving, Calif., venture capital group.

DataChem Laboratories is a Sorensen Company. It is the largest full-service environmental analytical laboratory west of the Mississippi River, specializing in environmental and industrial hygiene analysis.R. James Jones, vice president of marketing, said the combined network of DataChem and ABC laboratories will position the venture as the largest environmental laboratory in Latin America with revenues expected to exceed $40 million by 2000.

Much of the laboratories' work will be linked to new environmental regulations developed as part of North American Free Trade Agreement.

"With the NAFTA agreement, there are a lot of provisions and mandates that the Mexicans have to clean up the environment. Consequently, they're putting things in motion down there and they're working very closely with us," Jones said.

DataChem had been working with Mexican officials a full year before NAFTA was approved last November by Congress and the Mexican and Canadian governments. NAFTA created the world's largest and richest trading bloc, encompassing 370 million people.

Jones said the venture places DataChem about two years ahead of its competition in performing large-scale environmental analysis in Mexico. The partnership, Jones said DataChem has hired a Mexican chemist to serve as director of Latin American marketing. He recently earned a master's degree in business administration from the University of Utah.

Business affairs also will be facilitated by the unique language capabilities of DataChem employees, who speak 23 different languages.

"We're bringing U.S. quality to Mexico. We're bringing the latest state-of-the-art instrumentation as well as the chemists who are well trained to provide the necessary results," Jones said.

Initially, the ABC/DCL will perform air and water quality analysis.

"Mexico City is the most polluted city in the world, so air is an issue. Less than 20 percent of industry is complying to their regulations at this point. Mexico is working hard on enforcement of the law. As a consequence, there will be a greater demand for environmental analysis," he said.

Founded in the 1970s, Da-ta-Chem employs about 300 people locally, most of them chemists and scientists.

The laboratory analyzes air, water and soil samples collected at Superfund sites or hazardous cleanup sites. About 80 percent of the lab's workload are Department of Energy and the Department of Defense contracts. The rest is commercial analysis.

DataChem's Salt Lake operation processes about 25,000 samples a month, Jones said.